A feast and square dance were being planned in Hall Beach Friday to celebrate the successful rescue of a missing man and boy.
A rescue patrol spotted cousins Paul Sr. Qulitalik, 22, and Mark Qulitalik, 14, walking toward Hall Beach during the night of Nov. 23, four days after they departed Iglulik together on one snowmobile as a blizzard approached.
“They were cold, cold.” said Paul Haulli, one of the search-and-rescue coordinators working around the clock in Hall Beach. “I’m tired, sleepy, but very happy.”
The cousins, who had run out of gas, were otherwise in good shape.
“There wasn’t any frostbite,” Haulli said. “They survived out in the wilderness.”
Thirty searchers – 18 Rangers and 12 community volunteers from Iglulik and Hall Beach – worked day and night to find the Qulitaliks. A helicopter and a Twin Otter plane were also deployed to scour the land between the two communities, which are approximately 95 km apart.
Concerned parents called to report the cousins missing. The ground-based search was undertaken even though the weather was fierce, said Jacob Malliki, search and rescue coordinator in Igulik.
“It was really bad,” Malliki said of the conditions. “It was blowing snow, strong winds. Visibility was very poor… I heard that some of the houses were shaking.”
The furious snow and winds shut down the hamlets for the better part of two days.
Yet the determined search crew members donned garbage bags over top of their boots and clothing to keep themselves dry and they forged ahead, Malliki noted.
“We really needed to search because they’re a couple of young boys,” he said.
There are two common routes travellers take between Iglulik and Hall Beach, Malliki said. One veers toward Mogg Bay, where there’s a cabin but that building can easily be missed in a disorienting blizzard, he said.
“You tend to keep going in the wrong direction,” he said.
Directional signs were put in place last year, which helped, but changing ice conditions and winds resulted in them coming down, said Malliki. There was talk of putting barrels in place as markers but that hasn’t happened, he added.